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Obama, Romney give lip service to cybersecurity

Cybersecurity got a mention -- but just a mention -- in the third and final presidential debate.

Although the nominal subject of the debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, held Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla., was foreign policy, as in earlier debates the candidates turned again and again to the domestic economy and job creation. But despite the critical role being played by IT in both the economy and national security, the need to protect online assets got little attention.

Romney spoke of the need to build the economy, reduce unemployment and strengthen the military, saying “we make decisions today in the military that will confront challenges we can't imagine.” He mentioned terrorism as an emerging threat, but did not talk about the emergence of cyberspace as a new battlefield.

Asked by moderator Bob Schieffer about military size and funding, Romney opted for a larger military, while Obama focused on capabilities.

“But when it comes to our military . . . we've got to think about capabilities,” the president said. “We need to be thinking about cybersecurity.” But there was no expansion on the subject.

When asked about threats to the nation, Romney made one mention of cybersecurity in the context of economic security and the challenge posed by China. “They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods,” he said.

Granted, the practice of cybersecurity remains a specialty for nerds and is not something that is likely to sway undecided voters in Iowa or Ohio (although it might be a good topic for Northern Virginia).

But in the last four years, cyberspace has been recognized as a domain for warfare, alongside land, sea, air and space, and the United States has established a Cyber Command responsible for conducting offensive and defensive operations there. Economically, not only does IT underpin a growing portion of the economy, but cybersecurity stands out as a job area with almost no unemployment.

Seems like cybersecurity could have gotten little more attention.

Posted by William Jackson on Oct 24, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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